Restoring the Chatham Orpheum Theater

January 9, 2012 |

Chatham Orpheum in 1916, from Cape Cod Online

There is something wonderfully magical about seeing movies flickering across the big screen. That magic is many times amplified if you’re lucky enough to watch the movie in one of the few remaining old movie theaters still in operation in the US. An old movie theater bestows a unique atmosphere and sense of history that can transport you back through time to the golden age of Hollywood and film.

Chatham Orpheum today, photograph by Merrily Cassidy of Cape Cod Times

So it’s heartening to see that there is a team set on restoring the old Chatham Orpheum Theater on Cape Cod back to a working movie house. The theater originally opened in 1916 and was packed every night with locals and vacationers waiting to see any one of the major silent movies of the time. In the late Twenties, the theater was completely renovated to allow it to show the high-tech “Talkies” that had revolutionized the world of film. The theater was a much loved place to escape the monotony of everyday life and find yourself transported to another world. For many, the cinema was a weekly trip to see the latest adventures of some swashbuckling hero, or to watch the great romances of Rhett and Scarlett or Heathcliff and Cathy.

Unfortunately the growth of home-video took its economic toll, and in 1985, the Orpheum was purchased and changed into a music venue. Sadly, although it hosted the likes of Ray Charles, it only lasted a further 5 years before it become a retail space. Today, the plan is to return the cinema to the community by providing a venue for a wide range of  programming, including indie films, documentaries, foreign films, and contemporary films, all of which are currently underrepresented on Cape Cod. It would be a great addition to the attractions and history of Cape Cod if the project proves successful, providing the Cape a venue of character to compete with the sterile and dull contemporary movie theaters that now dot highways and strip malls. The magic that is conjured up by Steven Speilberg, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Mike Leigh, the Coen brothers, Pedro Almodovar, David Lynch, Ang Lee, and others should be shown the respect that its auteurs deserve and viewed in the intimate atmosphere of an old time movie theater – like the Chatham Orpheum!

Plans for restoring the Orpheum, from Friends of the Chatham Orpheum

You can check out progress on the venture or find out how to support or make donations by visiting their website.

We are so thankful to receive reports on what’s going on “down the Cape” from our friend Simon Hunton of the Platinum Pebble Inn in beautiful Harwich, MA. The Inn is offering a special Valentine’s Day deal for customers who book a stay between February 10th and 20th (click here for more information.) Sounds like a great way to get away from it all– and just think, when this project is complete, you can one day add “catch film at the Chatham Orpheum” to your to-do list while on the Cape! 

Spread the good word!